Man jailed for coughing at colleagues while Covid positive

An Indian-origin man has been sentenced to two weeks in jail in Singapore for deliberately coughing in the direction of his two colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tamilselvam Ramaiya, 64, pleaded guilty to one count of breaching the Covid regulation by not wearing a mask while outside of his house in October 2021.

Tamilselvam, who had then just tested positive for Covid-19, had coughed at his colleagues as a “joke”, he told investigators.

He worked as a cleaner with the investment holding firm Leong Hup and reported to the office in Senko Way with a runny nose on 18 October.

He was advised by an assistant logistics manager to take an rapid antigen test which showed a positive result.

Tamilselvam was asked to return home but he went to the office looking for the assistant logistics manager, The Straits Times reported.

The manager informed his colleagues – a 40-year-old male logistics supervisor and a 56-year-old female clerk with heart and kidney issues – about the cleaner's test result.

They both were in an enclosed air-conditioned room when Tamilselvam entered along with a driver at around 10.30am.

When the supervisor asked Tamilselvam to leave the room the cleaner walked to the door but turned back to cough twice with his mask on.

Tamilselvam then went on to lower his mask to uncover his nose and mouth and cough for the third time before exiting the office.

The assistant logistics manager lodged a police report over the coughing incident, which was caught on surveillance camera.

Deputy public prosecutor Sruthi Boppana said it was "no laughing matter" and that Tamilselvam had disobeyed instructions to leave the premises and returned instead to deliberately cough at his colleagues.

She said his antics took place at a time when Singapore was experiencing a fresh surge of Covid-19 cases, which prompted tightening of restrictions from September to October 2021.

Pressing for the cleaner to be handed over three to four weeks’ jail, she said: "The accused’s actions... reflect a wanton disregard for the safety of his colleagues.”

“The (female) victim, in particular, was a dialysis patient who suffered from both cardiac and renal issues.

“She was therefore particularly alarmed by the accused’s actions and quickly administered an ART on herself after the accused coughed in her direction,” she added.